Devon Maw and the board of the Bridgen Park Place are fighting a battle they’re not sure they can win.
The seniors who rent the 20 units at the non-profit retirement residence are facing rising rents because of increased taxes and higher hydro rates.
Maw, who is the treasurer of the board of directors, says in the last five years taxes have climbed 44 percent because the province is assessing the property at a higher rate. During the 2012 reassessment, the apartment complex went from being valued at $618,000 to $895,000 driving taxes up to about $21,000 per year.
If the assessment would not have changed, St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold says they would have been paying less taxes than 2012 by now.
Maw says the Ministry of Finance created a new assessment formula during 2012 which is based on income prorated across the province. Maw says there is some consideration for location, but he says the assessment has increased so much, it doesn’t make much of an impact.
Arnold says township staff has been working with the seniors apartment’s board to appeal the assessment, something Maw says has been very helpful. “There is a lot of information on reassessment that we didn’t necessarily know and it’s not readily available,” he says.
But the tax situation isn’t the only problem. When the building was constructed in the 1970s, hydro was cheap and electric heat was the heating unit of choice. This winter’s cold weather has driven up electricity costs to about $4,000 per month.
And Maw says the seniors are also facing higher bills because of the time of use rates and smart meters. “Over the last six year there has been 30-80 percent increase in hydro bills.”
The board has commissioned an engineer to look at heating alternatives including installing natural gas. But with no duct work in the home, that could be expensive.
“Their concern is they would probably have to re-mortgage,” says Arnold. “We don’t know yet for sure that but there is a real fear it may be over $200,000 because there is no duct work in the building.”
But until the board can determine if switching to natural gas is possible, the rent has to increase to cover costs says Maw.
“We’re trying to decrease the costs as much as possible… in 2008 the board tried to keep increases a lot smaller,” says Maw. “It caught up to us and we had to do a couple of larger increases now…when you’re dealing with fixed income seniors its difficult.”
This year seniors will face increases between 2.5 and 2.8 percent on rents of $700 and $800 depending on the size of the apartment.
Arnold is hoping the municipality can help the board of directors find a solution, especially for the seniors in geared to income apartments, whose rent is also rising. “I don’t know how anyone can justify that for affordable housing,” says Arnold.
Maw agrees saying the board is doing everything it can. “We’re a volunteer board, we have only 2 employees – one full-time and one part-time, we’ve decreased our costs as much as we can, at this point we have to reach out to the county and the township.
“We’re fighting a battle were not 100 percent how we’re going to win.”
2012 assess 895k